Monday, October 26, 2009

Even info commissions hostile to RTI Act

It may sound strange but it seems that the information commissions across the country are themselves reluctant to give information under the same Right to Information Act under which they work to safeguard citizens’ right to know. A countrywide survey on the RTI Commissioners has revealed that maintaining proper records seems to be an impossible task for them.
Activists of the Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF) claim that as they undertook the most elaborate survey on the RTI till date, they came to know about several state commissions which had no idea whatsoever about huge numbers of missing reports while many others tried their best to hide every bit of information
“Most commissions were reluctant to give out data even after repeated phone calls, letters, emails and personal visits. Interestingly, even we had to resort to RTIs to seek information, out of which again, many were not answered within the 30-day span.” Said Arvind Kejriwal, one of the trustees of the PCRF.
According to activists, after repeated attempts to contact the UP Information Commission and an unanswered RTI, they were called for a hearing.
“We were informed that the UP Commission had passed 22,658 orders in 2008. We were told that if we wanted copies of orders, we should provide details for each order including order number, name of appellant, respondent and the Information Commissioner, hearing dates, and description of the order. If we had these details, why would we be asking them?” said Swati Maliwal.
“As if this wasn’t enough, they asked us to attach Rs 10 as court fee for each order. That would have cost us Rs 2.2 lakh! The commission asked us money for providing copies of their own orders,” she added.
The tall claims of most commissions came to dirt as figures on paper reflected to the contrary. The West Bengal Commission claimed having passed 966 orders against 102 records that were furnished.
In Uttrakhand, 600 applications were remanded back without any hearing. Details of the orders passed were again not confirmed.
Despite several letters, several phone calls and one visit to Bhopal, just about copies of 1633 orders could be obtained against a total of 2161 orders claimed to have been passed by them.
The Chhattisgarh Commission furnished 1,741 orders against the initial claims of nearly 2,300 orders. The Central Information Commission had details of only 7,343 orders against their claims to have passed 10,285 orders.
In response to an RTI application, The Tamil Nadu Commission claimed that it had passed 40,402 orders during the calendar year 2008, which are on Commission’s website. The site had just 900 orders.
However, there were some state commissions that furnished copies of all the orders, including Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and a couple of others. After two RTIs and several letters and phone calls, the Kerela Commission gave copies of almost all orders. 

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